Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Angelina Jolie reveals she is open to role in politics

Angelina Jolie reveals she is open to role in politics
Since 2012, Angelina Jolie has traveled on more than 40 missions around the world as a special envoy for the United Nations Refugee Agency.
LOS ANGELES: As Americans went to the polls for midterm elections on Tuesday, Angelina Jolie revealed that she is open to a possible role in politics, diplomacy or public service.

The A-list star, who is already known for her humanitarian work on various causes, wondered aloud whether she would better achieve her aims as an actress or in another role.

"When you work as a humanitarian, you are conscious that politics have to be considered," she told Vanity Fair in a cover story.

"Because if you really want to make an extreme change, then you have a responsibility," she added, before saying: "But I honestly don't know in what role I would be more useful. I am conscious of what I do for a living, and that (could) make it less possible."

Asked directly if she could pursue a life in politics, diplomacy or public service, she replied: "I am open." She gave no more details.

Since 2012 Jolie has traveled on more than 40 missions around the world as a special envoy for the United Nations Refugee Agency. Last year Jolie was awarded an honorary Oscar for her humanitarian work.

Last month the star of such Hollywood films as "Tomb Raider" and "Maleficent" was made an honorary dame for her work combatting sexual violence. Britain's Queen Elizabeth II presented the award at London's Buckingham Palace.

Barack Obama left fighting for his own relevance...
WASHINGTON: Two things were clear long before the votes were counted Tuesday night: President Barack Obama would face a Congress with more Republicans for his final two years in office, and the results would be seen as a repudiation of his leadership.

But that was not the way Obama saw it. The electoral map was stacked against him, he argued, making Democrats underdogs from the start. And his own party kept him off the trail, meaning he never really got the chance to make his case.

"You're in the Final Four," as one aide put it, "and you're on the bench with a walking boot and you don't get to play."

The Republican capture of the Senate culminated a season of discontent for the president — and may yet open a period of even deeper frustration. Sagging in the polls and unwelcome in most competitive races across the country, Obama bristled as the last campaign that would influence his presidency played out while he sat largely on the sidelines. He privately complained that it should not be a judgment on him.

"He doesn't feel repudiated," the aide said Tuesday night.

But in a hyperactive, deeply polarized time in history, Obama faces a daunting challenge in reasserting his relevance in a capital that will soon enough shift its attention to the battle to succeed him. If the hope-and-change phase of his presidency is long over, he wants at least to produce a period of progress and consolidation to complete his time in the White House.

He will kick off that effort on Wednesday when, aides expect, he will hold a news conference seeking bipartisan accommodation on issues of mutual interest, and he plans to host Republican and Democratic leaders at the White House on Friday. At the same time, aides said, Obama is eager to throw off the constraints of a campaign that he did not direct and begin to defend his record in a more robust way.

"He's going to be aggressive. He's ready to go," said another senior official, who like others did not want to be identified discussing plans before the election results were tabulated. "We've got a lot of important stuff to get done in the lame duck. He'll talk about that tomorrow. We've got a lot of important stuff to get done in the last two years. He's anxious to get going on that."

To Republicans, it sounded as if Obama was hardly chastened or heeding the message of the election, evidently more eager to find excuses than to rethink the way he has governed. Absent a change in attitude from the president and a genuine outreach on issues that matter to them, Republicans said, the next two years could simply usher in even more political squabbling.

"There's a huge opportunity to get things done if his frame of mind is in the right place, and it's not clear it is," said Sara Taylor Fagen, who was President George W Bush's political director when he lost Congress in 2006. "He's never shown an interest or willingness to work with members of Congress. Talk to Democrats - they don't feel he ever made an effort to court them. It's not clear he'll make an effort to court Republicans."

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., said both parties needed to find a way to get past their mutual suspicions to forge a new working relationship.

"He feels burned, and we feel burned too," Kinzinger said. "For four years, it's been a lot of mistrust on both sides."

(President Barack Obama meets with his national security and public health teams to receive an update on the Ebola response. NYT photo)

Just two years after Obama's re-election, the midterm results underscored just how far he has fallen in the public mind. Nearly 6 out of 10 voters on Tuesday expressed negative feelings about his administration, according to exit polls. For every two voters who said they had cast ballots to support Obama, three said they were voting to express their opposition to him.

The electorate was deeply pessimistic about the country, with 7 out of 10 describing the economy as not so good or poor and 8 out of 10 expressing worry about the direction of the economy in the next year.

Numbers like that discouraged Obama's aides, who said they had not done a good job getting out the president's record, noting that the deficit has fallen by half, unemployment is now below 6 percent, the price of gasoline has fallen sharply and the economy is growing at a decent rate.

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden talked about that at a lunch last week, according to an administration official, and the vice president later gave voice to it in a CNN interview aired Monday.

"We have to be more direct and clear about exactly what it is we're looking to do," Biden said.

But Obama was focused on the odds against him. His staff researched it and told him that no president in more than a half-century had as many Senate seats open in states lost by the president.

"This is probably the worst possible group of states for Democrats since Dwight Eisenhower," Obama told WNPR radio in Connecticut on Tuesday.

In those red states, Obama was politically toxic and deferred to candidates who asked him to stay away. In the last days of the campaign, he visited just five states, compared with 10 states visited by Bush in similar circumstances in 2006.

"The White House concluded that it should be the responsibility of those individuals who have their names at the top of the ballot to drive the strategy," said Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary.

Obama understood in some cases but privately resented others.

"We think that was a mistake," one aide said.

Obama's irritation became clear when he said publicly that even if he was not on the ballot, his policies were, a comment that Republicans gleefully wrapped around the necks of their Democratic opponents. So Obama held his tongue but privately kept quizzing his political director, David Simas, about the latest information on early voting.

Obama had long ago given up hope that he would be able to push through some of his priorities before leaving office. He told a former aide several weeks ago that he knew he would never be able to expand prekindergarten as he had once hoped and that he regretted it. But he hopes for possible deals on corporate taxes, trade and infrastructure. And he will try to use the lame-duck session of the departing Democratic Senate to push through as many nominations as possible.

Whether Republicans are open to dealing with him in the new year remains uncertain. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and other conservatives will resist. But Speaker John A Boehner will have one of the largest House Republican caucuses in modern times, giving him more room to maneuver because he can afford to lose some dissenters if he makes common cause with Obama.

Anita Dunn, a former White House adviser to Obama, noted that voters Tuesday were just as negative about Republican leaders as they were about Obama. In the end, she said, voters were eager not for more failure but for progress by both parties.

"The message for anybody who's in power is that voters are looking for a change in how they approach getting things done," she said.